If you’re a fan of Italian cuisine, you’ve probably heard of Parmesan cheese. This hard, salty cheese is a staple ingredient in many Italian dishes, from classic pasta dishes to pizza toppings. But does all Parmesan cheese come from Italy?
The short answer is no. While Parmesan cheese is strongly associated with Italy, it’s not the only country that produces it. In fact, the name “Parmesan” itself is a bit misleading – it’s actually an Anglicized version of the original Italian name for the cheese: Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Parmigiano-Reggiano is a protected designation of origin (PDO) product, which means that any cheese labeled as such must be produced in a specific region of Italy using specific methods. According to PDO regulations, Parmigiano-Reggiano can only be made in the provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, Bologna (west of the Reno River), and Mantua (south of the Po River).
This means that any Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese produced outside of these regions cannot legally be labeled as such. However, that doesn’t mean that other countries don’t produce similar cheeses.
In fact, many countries produce hard cheeses that are similar in taste and texture to Parmigiano-Reggiano. For example:
- Grana Padano: Another Italian hard cheese that’s similar to Parmigiano-Reggiano but typically less expensive.
- Parmesan: The generic term for any hard Italian-style cheese made outside of Italy.
- Romano: A hard, salty Italian cheese made from sheep’s milk.
- Sardo: An Italian sheep’s milk cheese from Sardinia that’s similar to Pecorino Romano.
- Parmesan-style: Hard, aged cheeses made outside of Italy that are similar in taste and texture to Parmigiano-Reggiano but cannot legally be labeled as such.
So while Parmigiano-Reggiano is a specific Italian cheese with strict production requirements, there are many other cheeses that are similar in taste and texture and can be used as substitutes in recipes.
In conclusion, not all Parmesan cheese comes from Italy. While Parmigiano-Reggiano is a specific type of cheese that can only be produced in certain regions of Italy, there are many other hard cheeses that are similar in taste and texture and can be used as substitutes. So the next time you’re shopping for Italian cheese, don’t be afraid to branch out and try something new!